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Our project is set up to translate and adapt the Good Home Treatment of Influenza, a 17-page booklet anyone can download and print, into as many languages as possible. The booklet is © Dr Grattan Woodson MD, and the translation (a cooperative effort) is hosted by Flu Wiki. A big THANK YOU to all involved!
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Useful home care medical procedures
Home caregivers will be better able to evaluate and treat their patients by learning a few simple medical procedures. This includes taking the patient’s vital signs: pulse, blood pressure, temperature, weight, and respiratory rate. Blood pressure is easily measured using an automated blood pressure monitor. Follow the instructions that come with the device to learn how to use it. The pulse is provided on the blood pressure monitor readout. It can be measured directly by feeling the pulse at the wrist and counting how many beats pass in 15 seconds and multiplying by 4. Temperature is measured directly with a digital thermometer. The patient’s weight is measured on a scale in the standard manner and is best taken with the patient lightly dressed without shoes and around the same each time each day. Watching for and counting the breaths taken over a 15 second period and multiplying the count by 4 provides the patient’s respiratory rate. “Practice makes perfect” applies to learning and perfecting these skills.
How flu is passed person-to-person
Don’t worry about contacting the flu because it will contact you. Almost everyone is vulnerable to a new flu strain. There is nothing unusual about this; influenza pandemics are a regularly occurring event with one happening on average 3 times each century. Humankind is well prepared to suffer these pandemics and bounce back as we have many times in the past. Pandemic influenza is so infectious; it is quite natural for the majority of the population to contract the virus before it is brought under control by our body’s immune systems. About half the people who contract the virus will have typical flu symptoms, and the other half will have very few, if any, symptoms. So, while everyone is susceptible to a new strain, for reasons that we do not understand at present, only half the people exposed get sick.
Another reason pandemic flu is passed so easily from person to person is that people infected with the virus are symptom-free for a day or two after they begin spreading the virus. Once symptoms begin, adults shed virus for about five days, but children and those with impaired immune systems can do so for up to two weeks.
The most common way to catch the flu is breathing air containing the virus. Coughing or sneezing is how the virus gets into the air. Flu also can be passed when someone touches someone or something that has living virus on it. In this case, the illness usually gains access to the body from the hand by mouth, entering through the gut. Under warm and humid conditions, the influenza virus can remain infectious on surfaces like counter tops or doorknobs for a couple of days. During the winter, it can remain infectious in cold fresh water for up to a month. If you can avoid being around people sick with flu you may delay getting ill. However, if you are needed to provide care for a sick family member or friend with the virus, this strategy is not practical. Ultimately, most people are likely to be exposed to the virus. Its just a matter of time.
Wearing latex gloves and an N-95 face mask when caring for the ill and changing your clothes, mask, gloves, and shoes when you leave a sick person’s area is a way to protect parts of the house where healthy people live. In truth, pandemic influenza is so infectious anyone taking care of sick folks in their homes will be exposed repeatedly to the virus no matter what measures they take. Activities like helping the patient to the bathroom, changing bed linen, and washing soiled clothes, or simply breathing the air in the vicinity of the sick leads to exposure. Since most people will have one or more sick family members or friends to care for during the pandemic, it is unlikely to avoid being exposed.
Coughing and hand washing etiquette
Two simple but effective suggestions for reducing spread of the virus includes covering your nose and mouth with a tissue or handkerchief when coughing or blowing your nose and washing your hands after having any contact with a sick person. Coughing or sneezing into your hands is not recommended because then you are liable to spread the virus to anything you touch with them. Instead, if a handkerchief is unavailable, cough or sneeze into the inside of your elbow or the sleeve of your upper arm. Use soap, water, and a face cloth to wash your hands or you can use the new waterless alcohol gel.
The virtue of cleanliness
To help reduce the presence of virus within the home, keep sick people clean and dry. The sick rooms, bed clothing and bathrooms need to be maintained in good condition. Ventilation of these areas is important, and if possible, natural light will improve the atmosphere. Soiled garments and bedclothes need to be washed and dried, a task likely to be challenging if there is an interruption of electrical and water service. It will be important to wash these soiled items in hot water using soap and chlorine bleach if possible. Drying these items in the sun takes advantage of the powerful antiseptic effect of ultraviolet light. A good clothesline will be an essential item to have on hand.
Hard surfaces should be wiped clean using soap and water, and then sprayed with 1:10 bleach to water solution and wiped down a second time. Allow the bleach solution to stand on the surface for 30 seconds before removing it to help ensure that all the contagion is eliminated. This technique will effectively remove all trace of infectious viral particles and bacteria from surfaces that come into contact with body fluids, vomit, and excrement.